“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:8-9 ESV)
The passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark continues with an account of a woman who anoints the head of Jesus while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. The ointment was very expensive, prompting those in attendance to rebuke her for “wasting” it. Jesus, however, tells his listeners that what the woman has done was a “beautiful thing,” and because of this act, “wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
The woman, Jesus says, was anointing his body for burial, implying that her display of extravagance was done intentionally, with knowledge of Jesus’ purpose: to die. In fact, Mark sandwiches this account between two brief episodes that advance toward the cross: the conspiracy of the chief priests and scribes (v1-2) and the plotting of Judas to betray Jesus (v10-11). Perhaps Mark does this to show his readers that while Jesus’ mission and teaching continues to carry on, his impending death looms in the background.
The purpose for which Jesus came – to die for sinners – make sense of the woman’s generosity. We, too, can relate. We are typically more willing to spend our resources of things that have greater purpose than things that do not. The greater the purpose, the less we hold back. For example, conventional wisdom tells us to spend more money on things that are necessary – such as food, a home, or health, than things that are luxuries. Entertainment, snacks, and other incidentals might have a place, but they are not as purposeful and therefore not worth as much as those things that are necessary. Jesus came for a purpose – and this woman understood this.
We also can relate to sacrificing more for that which we honor. You may dress more nicely when in the presence of a person of honor, such as a judge, your boss, or a government leader. Perhaps you sacrifice more time to wait in line to meet someone that you honor greatly. We may spend a little more money or put a little more work into a gathering that is meant to honor someone’s birthday, anniversary, or achievement. The greater the honor, the more we give. The woman in our story knew she was in the presence of the Son of God, worthy of all the honor! The cost of her oil is nothing compared to the worth of Christ!
Knowing the purpose and honor of Jesus is related to the extravagance of our worship. When we give Christ our “spare change,” we are testifying that we don’t really buy into his purpose and we don’t really honor him as we should. As we come together this Sunday to recount this story, may the Lord renew our minds to see Christ for who he is and why he came, that we would not hold back in giving to him the worship he deserves!